Long hair worn almost on his shoulders and a beard characterizing his face since few years. His popular image in Estonia is as much similar as the one of Andrea Pirlo, albeit the age difference and the famous lamb vest, abandoned during the latest hot summer days. As the Italian Champion, he cannot run much on the pitch any longer but his voice matters in the changing rooms. Well, not really the changing rooms of the A.LeCoq Arena, but rather the office rooms of the Estonian FA, located in the same premises and overlooking the pitch of the national team and FC Flora stadium. It is here that Aivar Pohlak welcomes ‘Rumori’ and Andrea Pirlo’s ‘Mõtlen, järelikult mängin’ before taking a stroll to the green grass of the Arena.
During the path that brings us from the first floor to the most sun-bathed corner of the green surface, Aivar exploits the time to skim quickly through the book pages and get acquainted with some quotes and sentences. He is certainly looking forward to sit down, relax and read through the 21 chapters (as many as Pirlo’s shirt number) however he can already pick up the main point about ‘who is Pirlo’, the last Italian Champion. ‘He is a thinking person’ starts off the FA chairman ‘he feels the responsibility and he is able to analyze how things are developing and how he should perform to get a positive result, on and off the pitch’. Aivar Pohlak defines Pirlo as a person who ‘fits into the world I like’.
He sees a bit of himself in Pirlo thanks to the same need of quick analytical skills he uses in his everyday job. ‘I have been told this book should fit especially to me’ confesses Aivar to Rumori while holding a copy of the brand new volume in the artistic cover realized by Paine Profitt Art.
Aivar, looking at Pirlo’s career, is there any part of it that is interesting for you and you are looking forward to reading in his book?
I am looking forward to learning about the way he has been leading his career. It is very clear to see that under the point of his mentality, he reached the top now. As a football player, he is old of course even though still fit and competitive. It is in the final part of his career that is mentality is at the top. For me it will be interesting to learn the way he got there and how he felt he was while he was on his way to where he got. People are always growing, if they want of course. When comes to young football players, they have a problem with their mentality (says while pointing a finger to his as hinting at the brain inside –edit) and this affects them in fulfilling the expectations. Your best football age is when you are young, however, you are mentally still not grown enough. Instead, there are players managing this. And Pirlo is certainly one of those who have managed, that is why it will be interesting to read how he did that.
Actually, your words anticipate something that he says in the book: when you are older, you run less on the pitch, but you are more important in the changing room. I guess you agree with this statement.
Absolutely, when I was a young footballer I was very fit and I could run a lot. When I had my last season in the Estonian top flight at 37-year-old of age, I realized that. If I could have been as fit as when I was 25 and as clever as when I was 36, then I would have played in Barcelona (laughs –edit). Alright, maybe even in Juventus (laughs –edit).
Well, you might be surprised, but actually, you will learn from the book that Barcelona tried to snatch Pirlo from AC Milan!
Talking about people who have seen Pirlo from close distance, you are certainly one of those as you saw him in 2010 when Italy came to Estonia for the Euro Cup qualifiers game. Any story or anecdote you could tell us.
Not really, but I can remember a remarkable episode from the game (2-1 for Italy – edit). When Estonia was still one nil up in second half, there was a situation when he realized he could have acted quickly and for the Italian advantage. Italy earned a corner and Zenjov, usually assigned at barring the low pass from corner kicks in defensive situation, he was for just one second late in taking his position. Pirlo recognized Zenjov’s mistake and managed to make a low pass in front of the goal where Cassano was ready to tap in and score. Pirlo realized immediately what was going on and used the chance in his favour. It was a clear example of him being a quick thinking player. Additionally, he was able to be precise up to the centimeter in fulfilling what he had in mind, as the space where to send that ball in was really tiny. Cassano was also able to follow his quick thinking and probably this was the key moment that took a famous win away from us. Maybe Italy would have won anyway later on during the game, but this was the first chance, and Pirlo made the most out of it.
As Aivar mentioned at start of our pleasant chat amidst the lawn of the A.LeCoq Arena, he has always been quite up to date with publishing of books regarding Italian football. We therefore asked him to make a special name list of ‘Pirlo of his age’ from each decade since he has memory of Italian football (the role on the field was not binding).
Our ‘name game’ slipped into what are the chances of Pirlo continuing his job with the ‘Azzurri’ and we tried to draw a parallel with who could be the ‘Estonian Pirlo’ for the ‘Eesti Koondis’.
Who is the Italian Pirlo for each age of Italian football since you have memory of it?
My knowledge about Italian football starts from the 70’s… (takes a bit of time to think – edit)…maybe Dino Zoff (Italian goalkeeper and 1982 World Champion –edit). We could include him also in the 80’s of course; however, we will leave him in the 70’s. When coming to 80’s, I would mention a player who had a crucial point of his career during that period as he was arrested due to matchfixing (1980 –edit) and later on managed to come back and become a World Cup topscorer (1982 –edit) , we are of course talking about Paolo Rossi.
And we come to the 90’s, when Estonia regained independence and faced Italy for two qualifying campaigns in a row. Risto Kallaste told me once it was impossible to choose the best as there were so many. However, if you would take one, which one would be?
Looking at the personality again, Roberto Baggio. He had a strong belief in life, which characterized his career jeopardized by injuries.
Then the 2000’s which has the star of Pirlo rising but not only. Whom could you sort out?
Paolo Maldini, both for being a great footballer and a great personality not to mention his loyalty to the club (25 years at AC Milan –edit) and the fact his father Cesare was a successful footballer too. These are my names and probably they are quite easy ones to tell, however there are plenty of great footballers in Italian football history. This is just the point of view of a cold Estonian! (Laughs –edit)
This is your personal name list obviously. And I actually quite agree with the names you made, especially Baggio and Maldini. We have always been wondering why the latter never got a golden ball, as Franco Baresi did not either.
Going back to Pirlo: do you think he will continue with the national team? In the book, he says he will not (after the World Cup –edit) but now it seems he has changed mind…
He has to feel himself depending on his energies and according to his age. He needs to be fit in every game and balance the energies very well. If he can manage during the national team breaks, I guess he can continue. Instead, if during those two weeks he feels it’s the best time to recover for the next club challenge, then it means it’s wiser not to play any longer with the national team. However, it has to be his own decision. From the national team point of view, there are two angles. The first one, it is good for the national team if he can still deliver. The second one, it is a long term question: who will replace him? Maybe it is better Italy answers this question now.
What you say, it sounds a bit like Estonian national team dilemma when Vassiljev is not available: ‘who will replace him now?’, it’s the widespread question. Is Vassiljev the Estonian Pirlo then?
No, I would offer Dmitrjev as the ‘Estonian Pirlo’, looking at his cleverness and ability to fulfil the dirty work in the middle of the park. This is our real problem when we don’t have Dmitrjev. He is still younger than Pirlo, but not as fit.
Magnus Pehrsson is trying to adapt Karol Mets, a defender, into that defensive midfielder role. How do you think is the process of ‘Pirloization’ of Mets going?
The ‘Pirloization of Mets’ it will take time however I will tell you a curious story. When Karol was on trial at FC Kobenhavn (July 2012 –edit), I received a call from the coach there who said that he is really a good player but he suggested to make a defensive midfielder out of him already since then (laughs –edit) and…no one ever told this to Magnus, he reached there himself! This shows that it is quite clear that Karol has something to perform in that role. It will take time as he is currently playing in two positions (he is central defender at FC Flora – edit) and Karol has some weaknesses as a stopper but he has also some strengths.
Estonia are trying to prepare to their post-Dmitrjev period already.
Can Italy do the same with Andrea? The Italian football fans will know that in September when the new national team coach, Antonio Conte, will release the call-ups for the friendly game in Bari against Holland.
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